top of page
PFC First-Time User Experience 
Designing to increase early retention
IMG_6271 9.png

Paradise Fortune Casino was experiencing issues with early user retention. The game had entered soft launch and we had a hard deadline for worldwide launch. We needed to act quickly to solve poor KPI numbers.

I leveraged findings from our Consumer Insights team to hone in on our 
First Time User Experience  FTUE and a core gameplay feature called Star Surge.
This resulted in:

  • 100% increase in user retention

  • 20% increase in play session length

  • Spins per session doubled

My Contributions

I worked as the sole UX designer on this project. I was responsible for working directly with leadership across disciplines and provided: 

  • UX strategy based on findings from consumer insights (UX research) 

  • design recommendations based on heuristics analysis

  • feature recommendations informed by comparative studies 

  • user flows and wireframes 

  • continued UX support throughout the development pipeline 


Problem Statement 

During its soft launch phase, Paradise Fortune Casino faced a significant challenge with early user retention. As the deadline for the global launch approached, it became clear that the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for user engagement were not meeting the anticipated standards. This situation required immediate and strategic action to identify and address the factors contributing to the shortfall in retention. The primary focus was to refine our First Time User Experience (FTUE), aiming to enhance the overall user experience and ensure we met our KPIs in preparation for a successful worldwide launch.

Product KPIs


D1-D7 Retention


Play session length


Spins per session

Research and Discovery

Based on consumer insights and previous player tests, it was evident that there was a lack of comprehension surrounding a significant core game loop feature, Star Surge. In addition to not understanding Star Surge. Users also thought the tutorial was long and that it didn't focus on the things that they cared about. 

Star Surge Insights

  • Lack of Understanding: A the majority of users had difficulty understanding the Star Surge mechanic, indicating a need for a clearer explanation or simplification of the feature.

  • Low Engagement with the Feature: Many players either avoided using Star Surge or used it ineffectively, pointing to a disconnect between the feature's design and user expectations or preferences.

  • Negative Impact on Game Enjoyment: A substantial proportion of users reported that their confusion over the Star Surge mechanic detracted from their overall game enjoyment.

  • Need for Better Instructional Design: The feedback highlighted a demand for more intuitive instructions or tutorials for the Star Surge feature to enhance user comprehension and engagement.

  • Potential for Improvement: Despite the current issues, there were indications that with proper understanding, the Star Surge feature could enhance the gaming experience, suggesting a latent potential yet to be fully realized.

Water Closeup Style Presentation.png

Tutorial Insights

  • Tutorial Pacing and Structure Issues: A high percentage of users found the tutorial disjointed and lacking a logical flow, leading to confusion and a suboptimal learning experience.

  • Divergence from Core Gameplay: Users expressed dissatisfaction with being frequently diverted from the main slots gameplay to engage with secondary features in the tutorial.

  • Excessive Length of Tutorial: Many users felt the tutorial was too long and tedious, which was leading to a drop in early retention as players lost interest before fully engaging with the game.

  • Forced Engagement in Uninteresting Features: Users were unhappy about being forced to engage with features they found uninteresting, suggesting a need for a more user-choice driven approach.

  • Overall Tutorial Dissatisfaction: The majority of users were not satisfied with the current state of the tutorial, indicating a significant need for revision and improvement.



 Tutorial Progress Bar -- New players were overwhelmed by the original tutorial and I suggested the introduction of a tutorial progress bar. This would:

  • Provide a clear visual representation of progress, helping to set user expectations and simplify the learning process.

  • Enhance user orientation and engagement, making the tutorial experience more structured and coherent.

  • Create effective visual feedback by using a segmented design to align with different phases of the tutorial.

 Level-Linked Feature Introduction & Tutorial Shortening -- In response to feedback about players being bombarded with too many features at once, I proposed a level-linked feature introduction system which is common in other games like PFC. This would:

  • Gradually unveiling game features as players advanced in levels.

  • Significantly shorten the initial tutorial to reduce early player friction and improve engagement from the start.

  • Balance the learning curve and maintain a sense of excitement and anticipation throughout gameplay.

Random Activation of Star Surge Feature -- The Star Surge mechanic, noted for its complexity, could be simplified and made more exciting. After brainstorming with Product and Game Design we decided that Star Surge be activated randomly during slot play. This would:

  • Add an element of surprise and thrill to the game.

  • Simplify the user experience by removing manual activation complexities.

  • Allowed for players to approach and play the game the way they wanted by removing the associated currency which had previously forced players to engage in features they did not have an interest in.

Progress Bar

I mapped out the FTUE and collaborated with Game Design to map the progress bar with the tutorial and the appropriate tasks.


  • I created a flexible design so it could have different tasks in the future.

  • I created a wireframe along with the user flow.

  • provided UX guidance to the art and animation team as they implemented the finished feature. 

User Flow

Wireframe examples

Finished UI

Level-Linked Features and random Star Surge

Linking features to player level required a complete overhaul of the tutorial. 


  • I mapped out the current FTUE and made note of opportunities for improvement based on the feedback from our users.

  • Pinpointed areas for improvements players would appreciate.  

I mapped out the user flow as it currently existed and noted several areas for improvement that aligned with player feedback.

Old FTUE user flow_edited.jpg

I then mapped out the user flow using screens from gameplay. I've pulled sections from this flow to zoom in on below.

Old FTUE flow_edited.png

Players expressed a preference for spending more time in slots. The original version of the tutorial put users in slot play briefly before moving through an animation sequence and forcing them to go through dialogue with the host character, Phoebe. 

Biginning of old FTUE_edited.jpg

Players expressed that they found the tutorial disjointed. Players were interrupted throughout the tutorial always being forced to jump back and forth between the slots and the island where story beats and additional mechanics were being introduced.

slot play being interrupted_edited.jpg
lots of dialogue boxes_edited.jpg

In addition to this, the tutorial had many forced interactions. These were used to teach players how core gameplay mechanics worked, but they were often introduced before the mechanic was being used. 

required taps_edited.jpg

This applied primarily to Star Surge. The core game loop split elements of Star Surge across multiple screens which made it difficult to learn and increased the length and complexity of the tutorial. The way Star Surge was implemented made the entire game more complex and created a game loop that confused players and they simply didn't find fun.

Star Surge introduction_edited.jpg

 Star Surge loop

The original Star Surge loop had users needing to leave slot play in order to take part in tasks on the island.  This was a problem because:

  • It took players away from the gameplay they wanted to prioritize (slots).

  • The "build your own bonus" element of Star Surge created a lower return to players (RTP) in slot play.

  • Players did not enjoy the delayed gratification wanting bigger payouts sooner.

old game loop_edited.png

I collaborated with Game Design to simplify Star Surge. The mechanic would become a random bonus. This was better because:


  • It was something players were familiar with since random bonuses occur in many slot games.

  • It eliminated the need for users to navigate back and forth to the island if they didn't want to.

  • It made balancing gameplay easier. 

New loop_edited.png

Updated tutorial

With a new plan for Star Surge and an understanding that we would introduce features when players leveled up, I created a new user flow for the tutorial. I focused on:


  • Putting players in slot play quickly.

  • Not forcing them to leave for the island or other features.

  • Providing visual feedback and tooltips in slot play

  • Linking features to the tutorial progress bar to give players incentive to keep playing. 

New FTUE user flow_edited.png

This is a high-level view of the full tutorial. I've included zoomed in examples of changes I made below.

Final FTUE flow.jpg

Players were dropped immediately into the slot lobby, greeted by Phoebe, given coins, and instructed to tap on our most popular slot.

Dropped in slot lobby.png

I linked the progress bar to the new benchmarks which were features tied to level. I also added tool tips and visual feedback explaining new features as they were unlocked. 

feedback in slot play_edited.png

The island was made an unlocked feature as well. These decisions were all grounded in the law of progressive disclosure. I wanted to not only pace the tutorial well but also provide players with new information when it was relevant and bite-sized. One other important aspect of this was to design in a way that didn't force users away from slot play unless absolutely necessary. So the island became a feature players would need to visit in order to finish the tutorial but they could do it whenever they wanted.  

island unlock_edited.png

Like the island, Star Surge was also linked to leveling up. The user would trigger it upon hitting level 5. Once they finished the feature Phoebe appeared in the slot and explained that the feature could trigger in any slot.  

Star Surge unlock_edited.png


The team acted quickly to implement these design changes. Our KPI's increased significantly as a result: 

D1-D7 Retention lifted by over 100% from 11% to 23%


Play session length lifted by at least 20% across all days.


Spins per session doubled

I felt very confident in the direction we were going. We had made significant gains across the board on our numbers. We were still missing our KPIs but, far less than we were and we also needed to rebalance the economy in the game. 

From a UX perspective it would be great to perform another round of player tests with this new build. I would like to focus on feature comprehension around Star Surge again. I would also want to know how users feel about wins (RTP), and get sentiment around our events and missions systems. 

We focused so much on Star Surge in earlier testing that I think there are many more insights to be gained about other features that can help us to tweak them and drive up engagement even further. 

What next?

bottom of page